The dance floor can be a ripe space to work through your shit. Those who know the healing power of body motion can attest to this, and will often preach it as gospel. Alex Gray (Heat Wave, Deep Magic, Dreamcolour, Sun Araw) and Cameron Stallones (Sun Araw, Magic Lantern, WHERES YR CHILD) clearly fall somewhere within this camp. Their hour long disco mix, “Open”, which was originally concocted for dublab, will cover your toast in extended, buttery grooves. Perhaps Stallones and Gray aim to raise awareness about the cosmic power of disco? Perhaps they were just having an amazing time? Either way, I have a feeling you will enjoy this mix.
Sun Araw vs Heatwave, “Open”
As the Summer heat continues to bring life to a tumultuous boiling point, why not put on some loopy psychedelic music to match the mood? Heat Wave, the new project from Deep Magic and Sun Araw‘s Alex Gray, serves up some maniacally screwed sampledelica. The video is a warbly pastiche of B movie imagery, continuing in the tradition of surreal overlays that the Deep Tapes brand is known for.
Words: Samantha Cornwell
Heat Wave’s Stasis 1 tape is available now from Deep Tapes
If you’ve seen Sun Araw recently, then you have seen and heard Barret Avner, the tall Shahi Baaja player with long blond hair. Sadistic Candle is Barret’s solo adventure. “Last Holiday”, his most recent track, treads on some very proggy ground. After being greeted by a thick wall of feedback, we are pulled further into the mix by some high toned guitar wailing. Imagine Yes filtered through vintage Casio electronics, and you will be on the right track. On his cassette on Sun Ark Records, which was simply titled Sadistic Candle, Barrett explored the aesthetics of the heavy rock giants of the 70s and 80s. “Last Holiday” continues down that path, by making what might be the most short winded prog rock ever.
Join Visitation Rites and International Tapes for a night of debauchery at Coco 66. The LA DJ sensation Where’s Yr Child featuring Cameron Stallones of Sun Araw and M. Geddes Gengras is gonna set the dancefloor on fire after live performances from Sex Worker (Daniel Marin-McCormick of Mi Ami) and Psychic Reality, who recently put out a split together on Not Not Fun called Bored Fortress. Get your dancin’ shoes and bring the parents. Dad’s been under a lot of stress lately and really needs to unwind.
Lately I’ve had a number of discussions about covers. The question seems to be how much value they have, and what an artist can do to filter a cover through their own distinct voice. It seems as though Sun Araw has really tapped into something with his recent Neil Young covers. On his European tour this Fall, he performed a piercing, scrappy rendition of “Barstool Blues” from 1975’s Zuma. Now he’s done it again with this mystical rendition of “Thrasher” from 1979s Rust Never Sleeps. The track is from the soundtrack to Michael Lessner’s new film The Woods, which appears to be a generational meditation about a quest to break free from material culture. This version of the song frames the original’s themes of loss and crumbling ideals in an even more mournful way. Another layer is added by the fact that this track represents the Los Angeles of the present paying homage to one of the most notable artists of the city’s past. As the song seeps over me, I imagine a meeting of ghosts on a smog filled night over Laurel Canyon.
Sun Araw, “Thrasher”
Two of LA’s finest sonic explorers, Cameron Stallones (Sun Araw) and matthewdavid, got together to create the exceptional LIVEPHREAXXX tape. This guitar-free recording sets itself apart from much of Sun Araw’s catalogue, but evokes the ghetto blaster tones of the recent “Last Chants“. Beat master matthewdavid’s live remix gives the 30 minute tape a liquid Sci-Fi aura. The full recording was overseen by illustrious producer Aristocrat P. Child (?), who recounts the session below:
“The legendary invite-only parties at SUN ARK STUDIOS had reached a climax in late summer of 2010; steamy, ambiguous police actions, lenticular object sightings, and spontaneous dance-floor teleportations all pointed at a sinister portal that would have to be danced through. For the 3am set, MATTHEWDAVID joined SUN ARAW onstage for the moment of germination: SUN ARAW retrieved melodic objects while MD dilated, distended, folded, and flung them through the gateway. After listening from the control room with eyes closed, I wandered onto the dancefloor: the partygoers had vanished, and the entities that were moving to these grooves were tough to identify, multiplying rapidly in fractal-like patterns and slipping sideways into shadow. I caught a cab and got out of there. I have no idea who finished the recording.”
LIVE PHREAXXX Side A Track 3
As much as I’ve come to love the city of Los Angeles, I’d be a liar if I said that a certain amount of my experience here hasn’t been characterized by feelings of displacement and alienation. Sometimes the feeling of being a small, isolated dot on a large map is too much to bear. I felt this feeling quite strongly on July 4th, 2009. I was at a party on Venice beach thrown by a friend of a friend. We went up to the roof deck to watch the fire works that were being set off in Santa Monica.
As a native New Yorker, I’ve grown up with the Macy’s fireworks extravaganza that (usually) happens over the East River. Although there are some entertaining amateur pyrotechnics going on in certain sections of town, it is all about everyone in the city watching the same bright lights for one night. Obviously the bar was set high, so I was pretty let down when I saw how far away — and relatively puny — the Santa Monica display was. A friend turned to me and said, “this sucks.” I couldn’t help but agree.
Sometimes when you’re searching for the “ultimate” experience here in L.A., it is easy to find yourself feeling let down, left out, and turned off. This city is large, fractured, and easy to feel lost in. The feeling of a communal love fest can be found, but it does not come as quickly or easily as in some metropolises.
But feelings of bliss burn strongly when you learn to love this strange place for what it is. I had an extended moment of happiness on July 4th weekend, 2010. After a relaxed BBQ in a Silver Lake backyard, three of us headed for the Elysian Park Hills to try and scope some fireworks from Angel’s point. As we looked over the hills, we didn’t see one centralized fireworks show. Instead we saw a profusion of starbursts, all obviously products of amateur displays being set off from lawns, porches, roofs, and even from the street. The quality varied, but the volume was unreal.
At that point, something kind’ve clicked for me. These fireworks weren’t as sleek as what I was used to in New York, but with each blast I felt a sense of some individual setting it off. From where I was standing, I could see many of these displays, but the intended audience was more likely the people in the immediate vicinity of the person setting them off. There was something magical about imagining these little microcosms and experiencing the collective energy that they gave off on that special evening. We revelled in thus further as we roamed the streets of Echo Park, where you could find someone setting off a blast nearly every 20 feet. My friend Molly joked that it was like a really pretty war.
What I’m getting at here is that every person is capable of having an audience, even if it is a tiny one. Whether its your lover, your best friend, a room of people, or a huge crowd, you’ve got to do your thing for your audience with as much organic enthusiasm as you can. If you keep at it, and make it count, the energy you give off might gradually cause your audience to grow, but even if it doesn’t you’ve got to keep doing it for the people who are already there. Sometimes the search for the “right” place or experience proves futile and you’ve got to start from scratch wherever you are, and create your own environment. This kind’ve approach to life is essential to the LA experience. As these thoughts took over my head, I was brought back momentarily to the previous evening, when I was watching and taping Sun Araw at Synchronicity Space.
I’ve seen Sun Araw many times over the course of the last year. In fact, I’ve probably seen Cameron Stallones & co. more times than any other L.A. band. Sometimes the room is packed, and sometimes there are only around 20 people in attendance. As time has gone on, Sun Araw has continued to gain fans, and almost all of them are quite enthusiastic. There are lots of reasons for this, but one of the main things that gets me excited about Sun Araw is the persistent passion and energy he channels into every recording and every performance — no matter how many people are listening.
The July 3rd show at Sync Space was no exception to this. Those of us who crowded into that small DIY venue that night were treated to a tight, rousing performance that came equipped with highs, lows, and all the things that remind us why we love music. The venue wasn’t huge, but the performance and the vibe it created were. At one point, Cameron thanked the crowd for making the show into a really amazing zone. When you approach your creative output with passion, energy, and rigor, the space around you will become worth spending some time in. You can feel some of that by watching the riveting performance by Cameron and Nick Malkin in the video above. In the mean time, start engineering your own starbursts. (more…)
I haven’t seen JMW in years, but I will always remember him as the formidable skateboarder, line-cook extraordinare, cosmic guitar shredder, and all around big-hearted bro with whom I had the pleasure of sharing a rickety duplex for a short time back in Western Mass. Late last fall, JMW took a bad fall from a three-story building in San Francisco. Though he survived to tell the story, life after the accident has meant countless broken bones, months of recurring surgeries, and thousands and thousands of dollars in medical expenses that he will be potentially be paying off for the rest of his life. Now JMW has always had a very tight group of loving and equally big-hearted friends, and I was extremely touched to receive an email this week from M. Erikson — another former roommate, and the other half of Sudden Oak — about a limited run benefit L.P. that he put out this week to help take some of the edge off. Named after a tome by French spiritual surrealist René Daumal, A Fundamental Experiment is ten-track compilation of Neil Young covers by a group of artists in JMW’s extended friend circle, including Matt Mondanile of Real Estate/Ducktails, Sun Araw,Julian Lynch, The Laurentide Ice Sheet, and several other talented folks hailing from both coasts of this wide land. Somehow I have no doubt that the Father of Grunge himself would approve. Submissions by Julian Lynch and Matt Mondanile below.
1) Julian Lynch – Sedan Delivery
2) Metal Rouge – Helpless
3) Sam Goldberg – Transformer Man
4) Swanox – Thrasher
5) Sun Araw – Barstool Blues
1) Stag Hare – Cortez the Killer
2) Laurentide Ice Sheet – Southern Man
3) Trevor Healy – Round and Round
4) Avocet – Expecting to Fly
5) Matt Mondanile – Look Out For My Love
Julian Lynch, “Sedan Delivery”
Matt Mondanile, “Look Out For My Love”
Edition of 300. Pick up a copy and learn more about the project via the Fundamental Experiment blog.
When I stumbled upon Maids at a one-off Upstairs CD-R show at Coco66 this Spring, I remember stopping dead in my tracks, covering my ears in pain, and being unable to stop mouthing the words, “Abandon All Hope All Ye Who Enter.” Behind a suffocating wall of smoke, the 2-man rhythm section of New Jersey’s Big Troubles could be seen down on the ground in matching child’s poses, bowing in deference before a projection of a giant floating head — not unlike the Wizard himself, pictured above. I could barely make out what type of gear they were using, but the squall they produced was so debilitatingly loud that I couldn’t help remembering the one time I saw Whitehouse play and actually experienced the sensation of my ear drums being stretched to the ripping point. Funny thing, is Maids sound like nothing like Whitehouse. As I learned when Sam Franklin (also of No Demons here) rolled up to Newtown radio last Sunday, they simply layer purring drones and lackadaisical pentatonic keyboard scales until the room gets so saturated with sound that you actually end up getting a little scared. Probably all the more so because they are clean-cut surburban dudes who play in indie rock bands and show up on stage with their shirts tucked in.
Underwater Visitations Episode #7: The Maids Episode
Download the entire episode here.
Last week, “Sunday Brunch with Chocolate Bobka” on Newtown Radio was home to a DJ coup d’état. I wish I could say that the Underwater Visitations team staged a veritable DJ hold-up (in the manner of Horsemouth in the film Rockers, Reggae patois and all), but the reality of the situation had nothing to do with musico-political resistance, and everything to do with scheduling conflicts. Though no omelets or mimosas went into making of this episode, Ari and I had a full plate indeed — so much so that we stretched our two-hour repast into three and a half.
Cameron Stallones of Sun Araw delivered an inspirational virtual DJ set from sunny Los Angeles, aptly entitled “Sunburn City: Heads Up High.” Over Gchat, Cameron described the mix to me as the soundtrack to a “lazer lazy day”: “it starts all dewy, and then it gets mad sunburnt.” I’m not so sure what Sunburn city is, but apparently the photo above — which Cameron provided in the way of visual accompaniment — shows all the people who are waiting in line to get there. I probably should have asked him to tell me a little more about the place when he called into the station from the side of the road — not to mention his thoughts on Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Soviet mystic mathematician PD Ouspensky, whom he seemed intent upon discussion before the show– but we did end up having a pretty fascinating discussion on triangles, hairless dogs, and Hubble 3D.
Just when we were about to pack up for the day, G. Lucas Crane of Silent Barn, Woods, and Nonhorse fame rolled up with his mobile tape-manipulation dashboard and spilled about a hundred hand-labeled tapes onto the floor. Shortly thereafter, he dove into a hour-long mash-up of sounds as widely varied as Indian Raga, a “How to Feel Good Without Drugs” self-hypnosis cassette, and a tape he recorded while watching at home and jamming along to it on a synthesizer. The resulting performance — which you can hear at the tail end of the episode below — was frenetic enough to provoke a small seizure. But like any instance of sensory overload – listening to every FM station on the dial at once, for example — if you let the whole thing wash over you in one long continuous wave, you’ll probably end up feeling pretty blissed-out.
“Sunday Brunch with Chocolate Bobka Takeover: The Nonhorse / Sun Araw Episode”